Magpies are among the best of the sound-sampling songbirds out there
March 31, 2024 5:56 AM   Subscribe

This Brisbane magpie can make the sound of a blaring siren — but that's not unusual. When we think of birds mimicking sounds, we typically think of some kind of parrot, lyrebird or maybe even a cockatoo. However, Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen, no relation to British/European magpies) are among the best of the sound-sampling songbirds out there.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (8 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Very nice post.
posted by Czjewel at 9:28 AM on March 31

By coincidence (or not?), I was just reading about an Australian magpie a few days ago: Molly the magpie: Australia debates seizure of Insta-famous bird
posted by pracowity at 1:23 PM on March 31

I love bird mimics. I recorded a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) a couple of years ago in the empty car park of the local college's automotive section. It must've been very used to car alarms going off, as it mimicked a couple of types, along with lots of different birds: Mockingbird in the Rain
posted by scruss at 6:41 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

When I was in college in the early 1990s, there was a mockingbird on campus that would repeat the three-peat car alarms that were all the rage at the time. Mockingbirds generally do their calls in triplets, so the car alarms with their weep-weep-weep-whoop-whoop-whoop-wheer-wheer-wheer were right up their alley. I don't think they used their song as intelligently as Australian magpies seem to do, though.
posted by mollweide at 6:57 PM on March 31

This Brisbane magpie can make the sound of a blaring siren

So can my dog.
posted by dobbs at 8:23 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Fucking Brisbane magpies. So territorial. That being said, it was in Perth that one stole a slice of pizza right out of my hand in the middle of the city. I'll never forgive these birds.
posted by GamblingBlues at 5:16 AM on April 1

European starlings are remarkable mimics as well, in some ways more impressively matching the tone of a human voice than even most parrots. This one is repeating phrases from the story of European starlings in America, which is quite funny.
posted by tavella at 8:35 AM on April 1

"A magpie had learned to use the name of a dog on a property in New South Wales. The owners also had a cat that had tried everything to get rid of the magpie. When the cat approached, the magpie did not fly away but called out the name of the dog; the dog came running and chased the cat away. Calling the dog was not mimicry any longer but a most effective way to use the dog's name."

posted by Kiwi at 7:18 AM on April 2

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